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A Piece of My Mind
September 9, 1998

A Challenge to Licensing Boards: The Stigma of Mental Illness

Author Affiliations

Edited by Roxanne K. Young, Associate Editor.

JAMA. 1998;280(10):865. doi:10.1001/jama.280.10.865

In August 1995, I experienced a week of anxiety and sleeplessness followed by a painful depression. Though my condition was apparent to me, my colleagues noticed nothing wrong. I sought help. A psychiatrist diagnosed type II bipolar disorder, a mainly depressive disorder, unaccompanied by life-disrupting mania. With the help of my family, psychiatrist, and medications, my depression lifted while I continued to work (though with less committee work). Two months later, a medical student at my institution committed suicide. It was rumored that he feared career stigmatization from using mental health care. The next morning, at a scheduled lecture to the stunned class, I opened by disclosing my diagnosis and telling the students that such problems were not incompatible with a successful family or professional life—but that they must seek help.